Jury selection began Wednesday in a murder trial for Jamal Smith, the man whose case sparked a court battle over the recorded conversations of a jailhouse informant.
Circuit Judge Charles Burton told a panel of more than 100 prospective jurors Wednesday that the trial for Smith, accused in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old Kemar Clayton, is expected to last three weeks.
The expected star witness for the state in Smith’s trial is Frederick Cobia, a jailhouse snitch who has been listed by prosecutors as a potential witness in 23 cases. He has already testified as a jail informant in two local cases and earlier this year was still scheduled to testify in two others aside from Smith’s.
Prosecutors had once intended to seek the death penalty against Cobia for the murder of a 57-year-old man in Belle Glade, but he was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in 2012 in exchange for his cooperation in eight separate cases. In the recorded jail calls, which The Post published after Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey filed them in the court record, Cobia tells his daughter he expects his continued assistance will earn him a reduced sentence.
The publishing of those calls prompted Circuit Judge Jack Cox to order the calls removed from The Post’s website and initiate contempt of court proceedings against Ramsey, Smith’s attorney.
An appellate court later overturned Cox’s decision to keep the calls private, and Cox later agreed to step down from Smith’s case, but the contempt case against Ramsey is still active.